Innovation

Time for African agritech to get hands dirty

agri-tech

As the cost of living continues to rise, the standard of living for Nigerians has plummeted and African agritech needs to step up. Palm Oil which we produce ourselves is now more costly than imported vegetable oil. It makes me wonder if this is still the Nigeria my Grandma once told me about writes – Aboderin Opeyemi.

With the increase in food consumption, there is much talk on how technology can increase farmers outputs, provide a better livelihood for farmers and ultimately increase food supply chain that comes at an affordable rate. Our international exposure has made us believe in the use of technology in our day to day activities. This has led to home-grown technology startups, providing us better and comfortable ways of doing things.

Gradually, the opportunity for tech startups in agriculture became mainstream and agri-tech startups began to spring up with little or no input of what the farmers need or want. However, early startups have since been reaping the rewards of their labor. One of such is Angel Adelaja (a lady you might probably mistake for a fashionista) co-founder- FreshDirect, an agricultural technology company that grows agricultural product within shipping containers.

Adelaja represented Nigeria at the first Chivas Regal- The Venture, a $1million annual fund and global search to reward those who are using business to create positive change, she was also among the 30 finalists of Aso Villa Demo Day, an entrepreneurship program aimed at promoting innovation through new and emerging technology and also emerged winner of She Leads Africa- taking the N2,000,000 in cash prize.

“Disrupting agriculture through agri-tech in West Africa presents numerous opportunities to create efficiency and increase food production, however transforming this traditional industry is not without challenges.”

Approximately 500 million small-scale farmers around the globe provide over 70% of the world’s food and to provide this food, the majority of smallholder farmers rely on agro-dealers for access to farm inputs.  Farmers, especially in rural areas, couldn’t get access to this basic farm inputs and as such make their farm outputs prone to danger.  Nevertheless, despite the cost of getting access to farm inputs; farmers have more to do outside farm than in farm itself. Transporting farm produce from one end to the other is a herculean task. Getting farm outputs to the end users now cost more than what it takes to produce the products itself. This had since contradicted government epistle on the call to the diversification of the economy in the face of dwindling oil fortunes. The advent of agri-tech start-ups in Nigeria has not resulted in improvement for many  Nigerians.

However, the emergence of technology into agriculture now seems to limit the efficacy of agriculture itself. In this part of the country, technology has blindfolded most Nigeria agri-tech founders the enormous result our forefathers achieved in agriculture without technology.  Although, it’s believed that the advent of technology has reduced the stress that comes with farming.

Agri-tech startups have neglected the basic foundation which agriculture development rely on; farm inputs, infrastructural development, inclusive contribution and efficient marketplace.  Victor Asemota, encourages African founders to differentiate between problems whose root cause is a lack of municipal infrastructure and those that are behavioral.

Agricultural development will continue to leap frog if Nigeria start-up founders do not shy way from the basic fundamentals that made for agriculture a success in the past. It is therefore time for us to get our hands dirty.



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